Turbulent Jobs Dispute Continues In LIC

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Nonprofit Urban Upbound addressed alleged unfair
hiring practices at a soon-to-open Long Island City
hotel. Photo by Jackie Strawbridge.

BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Staff Writer

Weeks of dispute over hiring at a new Long Island City hotel have culminated in a tense back and forth between hotel managers and the community.

Queensbridge residents and members of nonprofit Urban Upbound gathered outside the soon to open Mayflower International Hotel last Friday morning to protest alleged unfair hiring practices there. The press conference followed an episode in which Urban Upbound CEO and senior pastor at Center of Hope International Bishop Mitchell Taylor was recorded on hotel cameras shoving an employee who confronted him at the door.

Taylor and a handful of employees then exited the hotel pushing and shoving, with Taylor briefly grabbing a pickaxe and waving it upside down at the workers.

Taylor issued an apology for the violence at Friday’s rally.

“I apologize for that kind of aggression and [that] incident, but I don’t apologize for standing up for my community,” Taylor said.

A number of other speakers issued their support for Taylor regarding the altercation, including Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Sunnyside), who said, “I have no issues with what happened yesterday.”

Also present at the rally was Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).

Urban Upbound called the press conference to contend that Mayflower was not living up to a verbal agreement to hire hotel employees from within the community.

According to the hotel, however, meetings had been held on the topic but no formal promises were made.

“What [Taylor] is trying to do is he’s trying to control the hiring process,” Elio Forcina, an attorney who represents Mayflower, said. “It’s an open process – anyone can give their resume in.”

“Textbook extortion scam,” Forcina added.

According to George Frangoulis, operating manager of the hotel, seven of the approximately 20 people he has hired so far are from Long Island City. At Friday’s rally, Frangoulis noted that the hotel will host a job fair and open house within the community in about three weeks.

Bishop Taylor (center) and Urban Upbound held a press conference and rally for jobs at the new Mayflower Hotel. Photo by Jackie Strawbridge.

Bishop Taylor (center) and Urban Upbound held a press conference and rally for jobs at the new Mayflower Hotel. Photo by Jackie Strawbridge.

“All Bishop Taylor is asking from the hotel is a fair chance for the Queensbridge community to apply for job openings,” Kamian Allen, a spokesperson for Urban Upbound, said on Tuesday. “Friday was the first we’d heard of the hotel hiring seven locals. If that’s the case, we’re thrilled.”

The hotel has already held a preliminary hiring search in Flushing. Frangoulis said it was held in Flushing because the owners’ main office is located there.

Confusion has also arisen regarding money that Urban Upbound received from the hotel. Frangoulis asserted that the hotel gave Taylor $4,500. Taylor said that the money was an unsolicited donation for an Urban Upbound gala and amounted to $2,500.

Friday’s ralliers, who included community leaders such as Queensbridge Tenant Association president April Simpson, marched outside the hotel with signs reading “we need jobs, not false promises” and “if you build here, hire people from here.”

Queensbridge resident Margaret Haywood attended the rally in solidarity with unemployed youth.

“We have a lot of young people out here who have no jobs,” Haywood said. “I have family members here, young people who need jobs. I had to come out here and support them.”

Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, jstrawbridge@queenstribune.com or @JNStrawbridge.